The Galapagos Islands: 10 Days in Paradise

I did it, I went to the Galapagos islands.

After hearing nothing but positive raves about this unique destination, I decided to do more research and began to fall in love. So I made it happen. Despite not being a huge wildlife lover, the Galapagos boasted an array of stunning beaches, incredible landscapes and activities which would be heaven for someone such as myself. I booked my flight for $222 return from Quito (I met people who bought it for $170, even $150 return on the same dates as myself) and knew it was definitely happening.

Honestly, it is one of the most beautiful destinations I have ever had the privilege of visiting. It’s such a must-see destination for everyone, from avid nature lovers to laidback beach babes, it can fulfill your holiday destination dreams. It has stunning, dreamlike, white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, vibrant lush greenery, a myriad of wildlife, topped off with beautiful weather and clear skies — sounds like paradise, right? It was.

Taken from the airport shuttle bus (on Baltra island) to the water taxi station to head to Santa Cruz island (look at the colour of the water, so beautiful!)

On Saturday (the day I arrived) , I booked a next-day day trip to Santa Fe island which included a stop at Playa Escondida (pictured below) and snorkelling around Santa Fe island. I loved it, it was my second time snorkelling after my first experience on Isla de La Plata aka Poor Man’s Galapagos (read about this getaway here). Despite snorkelling, for me, the highlight was chilling on the yacht at the end of the day and falling asleep with the warm sun on my back whilst being cooled down by the sea breeze, it was bliss.

Further Reading: Weekend in Puerto Lopez (Poor Man’s Galapagos)

Sea turtle near the main port. At night, from the port, you can see baby sharks, turtles, pelicans, manta rays, golden rays and various types of fish.

Highlights from Santa Cruz island:

Santa Cruz, specifically Puerto Ayora, is the main hub for visitors to the Galapagos islands as it has the largest port village and it has daily ferries to all other accessible islands.

I stayed on Santa Cruz for 7 days in total, although I went to Isabela in the middle of my trip then returned to Santa Cruz for the last few days. I stayed at (Galapagos Best Homestay), a hostel a 15 minute walk away from the main port in Puerto Ayora, the main village town of Santa Cruz island and the largest on all of the Galapagos islands. It cost $17 per night (for a 3 bed female dorm), had cooking facilities, helpful hosts, hot water (scorching at times!) and good wifi connection.

Doesn’t this remind you of a stock image photo background?! (Playa Escondida beach, Santa Cruz)
Relaxing on the yacht whilst heading back to Santa Cruz after a day trip to Santa Fe island.
Taken underwater whilst snorkeling, we were also surrounded by sea lions, turtles, manta rays and spotted a shark whilst I was getting back onboard.
Cute, baby sea lions sleeping on the port deck without a care in the world.
Trying to do one of those cute ❤ in the sand.
Las Grietas, Santa Cruz. It is a natural canyon lagoon with the most fresh, crystal clear water I have ever seen.
Kayaking at the smaller, calmer beach at Tortuga Bay. We fell in the water shortly before this photo was taken, lol!
Los Gemelos — twin craters (sinkholes not volcanic craters) on Santa Cruz island. Took a taxi here from Puerto Ayora with bikes with the intention of spending the day cycling and exploring. However, my tyre burst and didn’t do as much cycling as I thought I would.
The other side of Los Gemelos, I was in awe.

Highlights from Isabela Island:

I stayed on Isabela island for 3 days. Whilst on Isabela, I had the privilege of relaxing on the famously, long (6km), gorgeous beach, saw many sea lions, did a short hike to Muro de Lagrimas, went to a tortoise reserve and, most importantly, embraced the island vibe.

Reflecting on it now, I wished I spent longer on Isabela as it is the largest island and hence it has so much to see, although I am super grateful for what I did see on that stunning island. I stayed at (Posada del Caminante), a hostel located close to the Puerto Villamil, the small port village where all ferries arrive. It cost $15 per night (for a 4 bed female dorm), had cooking facilities, friendly hosts, hot water and good wifi connection.

Saw a cool, floating photo on instagram and wanted to create my own. Although, this mood is what I loved most about being on the Galapagos islands. The laidback, chilled, island vibe will be missed.
Beautiful flamingos in a natural lagoon.
Encounter with the famed Galapagos, giant, wild, land tortoises. Usually they retreat into their shell when you approach, so I was happily surprised that this tortoise had it’s head out even when I gently stroked it.
At the top of Muro de Lagrimas (wall of tears) which is a historical site built by prisoners. Isabela island was originally a North American military base but, after World War 2 it went back to the Ecuadorian government who decided to use it as a prison camp.
Leaving the incredible Galapagos islands, it was such a great trip and was 100% worth it. Forever grateful ❤

Delicious Food:

As you’ll see from the photos below, double carbs (rice & chips) in a single meal are standard here on the Galapagos islands and also in mainland Ecuador, so you can always be sure you’ll be completely stuffed after a meal, you definitely get your money’s worth. On average, each ‘dinner’ meal was around $13. A combination of cooking at the hostel and eating out in the evenings worked well for me and I would recommend it if you would like to do the Galapagos on a budget.

Pretty fruit display provided on the Santa Fe day trip.
Lunch provided on the Santa Fe day trip. It was delicious and I was very hungry by this point, so it was always going to be well-received.
Galapagueno breakfast — It was fish (can’t remember the type), rice, salad, patacones (crushed fried plantain).
Camarones a la plancha — Grilled prawns, rice, chips and salad (four pieces of vegetables). Eaten on Isabela island.
Helado Tato (cost $1) was perfect for the swelteringly, hot days on Santa Cruz.
Langostino al ajillo — lobster in garlic sauce with rice, chips and coleslaw-style salad.
Half-eaten passionfruit ice cream which tasted more like a sorbet. I think I bought this more than five times during the trip, it was so delicious 🙂

Here is a very useful blogpost full of tips for organizing a budget-friendly trip to the Galapagos Islands which gave me ideas of activities to do whilst I was there:

The Cheapest Ways You Can Travel Galapagos

Further Reading: Ecuador Must-Sees, Trip to Beautiful Quilotoa

I am so so grateful for this trip and even more excited to travel this summer in South and Central America, especially as I recently found out that there’s a desert in Colombia (Tatacoa desert) and the deepest canyon in the world is in Peru, Cola Canyon, even deeper than the Grand Canyon in Arizona! So many more exciting adventures ahead which I am so excited to share and document, so keep an eye out!

Originally published at liveinthemoment.co — April 6th, 2018.